Poland has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest since 1994. So far, the closest it has come to winning was... during the very first Eurovision it participated in. Culture.pl takes a look back at Poland's performances in the popular European competition.
Poland has had a bit of a checkered past with Eurovision. Having participated 17 times since the country’s debut in 1994, Poland’s entries have ranged from fan favourites such as Edyta Górniak, to the raunchy butter-churning from Donatan and Cleo. Here are some of the most memorable and diverse entries over the past 20-odd years.
1994: To nie ja by Edyta Górniak
Górniak’s moving ballad did extremely well in Poland’s debut year, earning her second place and losing only to Ireland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids. At the time, all entries had to be sung in their national languages, which is very different to recent years’ majority English entries. Some fans contend that if she had been allowed to sing in English, Górniak could have easily won first place. Her song, To nie ja (or That’s Not Me in English) was said to be evocative of Mariah Carey, and she blew people away with her vocal range. Interestingly enough, Górniak represents a minority group in Poland: She is half Romani on her father’s side.
2001: 2 Long by Andrzej Piaseczny (Piasek)
Performing his upbeat number in a shaggy coat, Piasek wasn’t everyone’s favourite performer. During the selection process, he was at the centre of some controversy. After winning the competition to perform Piasek gave a rather self-aggrandizing interview with Kuba Wojewódzki where he stated that he thought of himself as Poland’s next hero after Adam Małysz. Often quiet in public, this was an odd move for the performer, and it didn’t endear him to his potential supporters. Piasek ended up finishing 20th in the final with only 11 points.
2003: Keine Grenzen-Żadnych Granic by Ich Troje
One of Poland’s best performances as of yet, Ich Troje placed 7th in the final with this song. Keine Grenzen-Żadnych Granic, translated as No Borders in English, was sung in three different languages: Polish, German, and Russian. Considering most Eurovision entries were sung in English at this point, this was an interesting choice that happened to work for the group. The song emphasises the need for peace, reflecting on the violent history between Poland, Russia, and Germany. Poland received the maximum 12 points from Germany but none from Russia during the contest. Ich Troje tried to revive their success with a 2006 submission called Follow My Heart, but failed to place.
Not all of the members of Ich Troje are of Polish descent either. Elli Mücke is German. This is not the only time Poland has been represented in part by someone who wasn’t Polish: 2007’s The Jet Set is made up of English-born (with South African ancestry) David Junior Serame and Russian-born Sasha Strunin. Isis Gee, who performed in 2008, is American born but of Polish descent.
2011: Jestem by Magdalena Tul
The worst performing entry on this list, Jestem, was an energetic pop song complete with flashing lights and pyrotechnics. The song came in last in the semi-final and therefore was not performed in the finals. Poland did not participate in the contest for two years after the song’s failure due to work on co-hosting the European Football Championship 2012 with Ukraine. However, this didn’t impact Tul’s career too much: She went on to compete on The Voice of Poland and is still recording music.
2014: Slavic Girls (My Słowianie) by Donatan and Cleo
Poland’s entry to the 2014 Eurovision contest garnered a lot of attention. My Słowianie, with an English version called Slavic Girls, was Poland’s most-watched video in 2013, and it was the country’s best-performing entry since 2003. This marked a strong return from a two-year hiatus, and it was even referenced in the United States on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.
Although some fans considered this to be one of the most memorable entries from last year, the song was met with controversy: many viewers considered it to be soft-core porn, sexist, or even supportive of a modern-day pan-Slavism. In an open letter published last year, Filip Lech discusses the problematic interpretations of the song. However, despite various criticisms (and parodies) of the act, Donatan and Cleo did fairly well at last year’s contest, placing 14th after a long stretch of failing to qualify.
2015: In the Name of Love by Monika Kuszyńska
The 2015 entry is very different from its predecessor. Written and performed by Kuszyńska, In the Name of Love is an inspiring ballad: her lyrics remind the listener to never give up and to connect to others.
Every time you’re brokenhearted
Sinking in the sorrow
Feel the emptiness and have no faith
No strength to breathe
I wanna tell you
It’s gonna be better
You've got the greatness within you
Beyond the fear
Let’s build the bridge
From heart to heart
In the name of love
This is a message that is extremely important to Kuszyńska for personal reasons: The singer was confined to a wheelchair after a car accident in 2006 and she is paralyzed from the waist down. The video for her song not only makes use of current footage of the singer, but it also uses clips of her from before her accident. Relating to this year’s theme of Building Bridges, Kuszyńska has said that she hopes her music can link two worlds that are not usually in contact: the world of those with disabilities, and the world of those without.
Kuszyńska is not the only performer with a disability to be featured in 2015’s competition: Finland’s Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (PKN) is comprised of members who have developmental disabilities, but the band has already been disqualified in the first round of semi-finals. This means that Kuszyńska is the only remaining voice for a population that is so often underrepresented.
Despite not having the most successful submissions, Poland has definitely had interesting and often diverse performers. Sometimes this representation can be questionable, such as the case of Slavic Girls, but other performers have drawn upon historical trajectories and the experiences of minority groups within the country to present a more complex portrait of Poland. Hopefully we can look forward to seeing more of that representation in the years to come.
Author: Alexandra Jason, 21/05/2015